Old Pumps Can't Register High Gas Prices
MIKE PESCA, host:
Welcome back to the Bryant Park project from NPR News, online all the time at npr.org/bryantpark. So we're now at the part of the show where we tie a strip of cloth around our foreheads and start shooting up equipment with an M-16. It's the Rambo. Oh, wait a minute. Oh, my God, my mistake. It's actually the time when we wind through some of the lesser stories of the day. It's the Ramble.
(Soundbite of music)
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Oh, yeah. That's what we call it.
PESCA: You see why I could have done that? Spell-check!
MARTIN: OK. We're going to start in Japan, because why not? Japanese cigarette vendor, you've been to Japan. I lived there for a little while. If you go to Japan...
PESCA: I have. Square watermelons!
MARTIN: They have square watermelons. You can also get anything out of a vending machine, literally, kegs of beer. You can also get cigarettes. But the problem is, you know, as you would imagine, anyone can walk up and buy cigarettes out of a vending machine. They want to stop that, and how are they doing it?
They are installing this new kind of technology into the vending machines that can actually read a person's face. The technology can scan your face to see if you have signs of aging that would indicate that you are older than 20 years old, like wrinkles, saggy skin - it depressed me. I thought, this is what happens to us? Wrinkles and saggy skin when you're over 20, really?
PESCA: If you start smoking enough when you're eight, won't you have those signs by the time you're 13 anyways?
MARTIN: Yeah. You're right. You're right. The machine then compares these images to a database of faces at different ages - only in Japan, I tell you. Company officials believe their system would be about 90-percent accurate. Japan's Finance Ministry has yet to approve the facial identification.
PESCA: Yeah. And I'm sure the technology would bring the price of cigarettes to 93 dollars a pack. Maybe they're quaint. Those old-fashioned gas pumps are a callback to another era when five dollars really did fill the tank, but gas prices approaching - and in some places exceeding - four dollars a gallon are presenting a challenge for some gas pumps. The problem is those spinning mechanical dials don't have a price higher than 3.99 a gallon. The pumps also max out at the total amount they could charge at 99.99, which leaves some big gas tanks, you know, almost half full, but not even.
Upgrade, you say? But it's not that easy. The mom-and-pop operations where you find the old gas pumps would need a lot of capital to adopt to modern gas tanks. It's not an option for a Chip Coleville's Chevron Station in Eastern Washington. Chip says, quote, "The new ones run between 10,000 and 15,000 a piece. It's an expense that's not worth it."
Meanwhile, the company that supplies upgraded meters to the old-fashioned pumps has a 14-week backlog of orders. So when gas prices go up, that's a good company to invest in. The short-term solution is that some state regulators are allowing the gas station owners to display half the price on the meter and charge double. Stations must also provide signs explaining the system to the driver and free math.
MARTIN: So if you want to buy an iPhone, you can't do it online. Apple says apparently the iPhone is out of stock at its online stores. Industry watchers say this is a sign that an even better model is on the way. I think it's forced manufactured scarcity, frankly, but that's just my opinion. A company spokesman for Apple confirmed the stock was gone, but mum's the word when asked when more phones would arrive.
Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs is delivering a speech at Apple's developer conference in a few weeks. Maybe the new model might be revealed there? Perhaps. You can still get an iPhone at some retail stories though in the U.S. Never fear. Almost four million have been sold since they hit the market last year. The iPhone still ranks behind the BlackBerry in total sales.
The new and better iPhone is supposed to compete with the BlackBerry by offering more business functions and support for corporate email, but BlackBerry isn't sitting back. Apparently makers say their new BlackBerry Gold will be faster and have more room for songs and videos. This advertisement brought to you by the Bryant Park Project. Thank you.
PESCA: Yeah. Carrier pigeons everywhere were heard to coo mournfully. LeBron James was doing more than playing basketball last night in the second quarter of the Cavs-Celtics game. The basketball player was doing some family referee work, too, when he and his opponent Paul Pierce angled over a breakaway dunk. All right, I was watching the game at the time. Here's what happened.
LeBron was going up for a jam. Paul Pierce wrapped him up and held on and they started to do a little tango into the stands. Well, this got - of all people - up off her seat, LeBron James' mother, Gloria James, who's in the very section that they crashed into. She started yelling at Pierce for the hard foul on her son. There's a very famous clip of a boxer being hit in the head with the shoe of his opponent's mom, but that didn't quite happen.
LeBron, he was so cool under pressure. He calmed his mom down and then he went over and Pierce had just wrapped LeBron up and then LeBron gave Pierce a little thud in the chest, but it was a good-natured thud, saying, I understand, it's a part of the game. It's the exact sort of situation where things get out of control. LeBron kept his head. We have a little clip of that moment.
(Soundbite of basketball game broadcast)
Mr. MARV ALBERT (announcer, TNT): There is no love lost. There is no love lost between LeBron James and Paul Pierce.
MARTIN: How much? None.
PESCA: Yeah. Love lost.
MARTIN: No love. None of it.
PESCA: Cliche. LeBron can be seen mouthing the words "sit your blank down..."
MARTIN: To his mom?
PESCA: To his mom, and it worked. Well, she was in the moment and he kept his head. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your Ramble. These stories and more on our website, npr.org/bryantpark.
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